Daily Sun - The Villages, Florida

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Music in The Villages

George Makrauer - Drums in The Villages, Florida

"He's one of the finest drummers I've ever worked ·with. He has a voice. When he plays the drums, you immediately know it's him. He has an identity."
- Paul Simons, former lead guitarist of Them
about George Makrauer
LEFT: George Makrauer, of the Village of Pinellas at Evans Prairie, has played drums for most of his life. He played drums for the band, Them, in 1965, and opened for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons during a dance at Miami University in Ohio. BELOW: The band Them is shown in a publicity photo. Pictured, from left, are Makrauer, Paul Simons, Eugene Katona, Mary Ellen Tanner and Stan Hertzman.



Keeping time
in the album of lifeThem Torquays Cincinnati George Makrauer The Villages Florida Daily Sun Article

George Makrauer has enjoyed drumming since childhood, including stint in '60s band

Not everyone can say his band opened for the Four Seasons. George Makrauer can.

The band was called Them, and it was the opening act for Frankie Valli's group during a at concert at Miami University in Ohio.

"We thought we were so cool," said Makrauer, who played the drums. "Then they (The Four Seasons) get on stage, and after their first eight bars, we looked at each other and said, 'What are we doing here?'"

Despite their deflated egos that night, the members of Them became a hit in three states for some six years, playing everything from rhythm and blues to country and western to jazz. The band landed a record contract with King Records, which had been home to James Brown and the Ink Spots, among others.

Part of that contract included joining forces with Brian Epstein, who had managed the Beatles. Sadly, that never came to pass, as Epstein died a few weeks after the paperwork had been prepared.

Makrauer left the band in 1967, and he didn't pick up the drumsticks for more than 30 years. But now, the drums are a big part of his life once again.

Makrauer's Village of Pinellas at Evans Prairie home is his third house in The Villages, and this one appears to be just right'. He was able to turn a large room into his personal music room, with his Roland V-Drums plugged into a PA speaker for sound control.

"Once you close the door, (you can't hear anything else)," Makrauer said. "(My wife) thinks it's wonderful, too."

He got his first set of digital drums back in 2004 when he was playing for a couple of churches' worship teams.

"It's really wonderful," Makrauer said. "You can tune them the way you want them to be tuned. You can add sound effects. But the greatest is, you can adjust the volume so you're never too loud and not too soft."

Marching to the beat

Makrauer's drumming adventure began at age 9, when he took lessons from George Carey, (principal) percussionist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who also played percussion for John Philip Sousa's band from 1923 to 1925.

George Makrauer re-reads his original 1953 Imperial Methods Rudiments instruction lesson bookMakrauer recently unearthed his instruction book, Harry Bower's 'The Imperial Method for the Drum.' It has hand written notes from Carey marking the date of the lessons. The first was dated Valentine's Day 1953.

One of Makrauer's uncles, Philip Mehl, was a drummer in the Shrine Drum arid Bugle Corps, and Makrauer took an interest.

"(I liked) the way (the·drums) kept the group together and in step," Makrauer said. "I asked my uncle (for lessons), and he said, 'Oh, yeah, we can do this. But that was before we spoke to my parents."

Makrauer thought he was going to get a drum set, but instead, he got a rubber practice pad. It was good for learning the basics, but nothing like playing the drums and cymbals of a real drum set.

He soon cobbled together a drum set for his first few gigs, using his uncle's tall and thin marching bass drum and a floor tom that had a garbage can for a stand.

In 1964, while Makrauer was attending the University of Cincinnati, the Beatles invaded American shores. Makrauer took a cue from Ringo Starr when he bought his first true drum set - a Ludwig set similar to Starr's but with a different pattern on the shells.

"It was quite the set," Makrauer said.

Taking it seriously

The band Them originally started out as the Torquays, with the original four meeting in high school. The Torquays eventually added two members, including a female vocalist.

Paul Simons, who now lives in Philadelphia, was the lead guitarist and one of the original members of the group.

"He's one of the finest drummers I've ever worked with," Simons said about Makrauer. "He has a voice. When he plays the drums, you immediately know it's him. He has an identity."

After getting the record contract, the band changed its name from the Torquays to Them. The members wore suits and ties as well as wigs that made their hair longer to match the style of the era.

Them was popular in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The band even headed down to Fort Lauderdale for a week of spring break fun. The money made from gigs helped to pay for their college educations.

Them recorded four singles, with an add1t10nal two backing up The Strangers in Town. Makrauer said the songs did OK in Cincinnati, but didn't make much of a dent outside the city. Due to low sales of the singles, their contract soon disappeared.

When Makrauer left Them, he transitioned into the working world as a management consultant.

But he didn't leave the drums entirely. Whenever he was in the car, he would drum on the steering wheel to whatever was on the radio.

"It was tough to drum with the brake and gas pedals," Makrauer said.

In the late 1990s, Makrauer returned to the fold completely. He played in a band for a political rally when he was running for commissioner in Treasure Island, then later joined the praise teams of two churches in Celebration, playing at least twice a week. He spent a year at Celebration Community Church, then another year at Something Else Church.

Now that he's in The Villages, Makrauer is a part of two groups: the Beatlemaniacs and another band that is in the early stages of development.

"The musicians in this community are fantastic," Makrauer said. "When I've played with a number of them, they've set a standard. They want me to listen to the way (the original drummers) did it. It's not 'Let's jam together.' I have to pick it apart without sheet music. It's been a challenge."

After being away from the drums for so many years." Makrauer hasn't lost all of his abilities.

"It is like riding a bicycle in terms of understanding the basics," Makrauer said. "The speed and precision, it's 60 percent there."

Michael Fortuna is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9299, or